Winning Students


Heriot-Watt rowing world champion aims to bridge the age gap

4 February 2016
Gavin Horsburgh is aiming to make the step up from GB junior to Under 23

Gavin Horsburgh is aiming to make the step up from GB junior to Under 23

Heriot-Watt University junior World Rowing Champion, Gavin Horsburgh, is working hard to impress GB selectors as he moves up from junior to under 23 competition this season. 

The 18-year-old from Lochwinnoch has been rowing competitively for just three years but in 2015 he was part of the crew which won Britain’s first-ever world title in the quadruple scull boat class​ on the Rio Olympic course.

Determination and speed helped Gavin, who ​now competes in the lightweight men's category, get selected to last year’s GB junior team.

“I was a bit of an anomaly; my ergometer test wasn’t the fastest but my water performance was one of the top four in the country,” said the MA Geography, Society and Environment first year student.

“They kept testing me to see if it was a coincidence but I kept proving that it wasn’t. I don’t have the physique they’d expect from a junior rower and they generally look for bulky people, so I was ecstatic to be selected.

“But that was just the start. We all wanted to win gold at the worlds, so to be the first crew to do it was absolutely amazing.”

The challenge now is for Gavin to prove to selectors he has what it takes to make the British under 23 team. The trials process started in November with the next assessment taking place later this month.

“The British Lightweight Quad won silver in last year’s under 23 World Championships and one of the team has moved out of the age group,” said Gavin. “So I’d like to prove I can bring something to that boat.”

Gavin is one of a growing number of young Scottish rowers who have decided to stay in Scotland instead of studying at a traditional rowing university in England.

“Loads of universities are out to scout you to build the best rowing team,” he said.  “But great things are happening in Scottish Rowing right now and there are so many benefits to staying here.

“You get access to local clubs and their facilities and we have so many support services such as the sportscotland Institute of Sport as well funding opportunities you wouldn’t get elsewhere.

“Heriot-Watt University has a great rowing programme but I train with the University of Edinburgh because it’s an accredited Scottish Rowing and GB Rowing Team High Performance Programme​ and has a really strong lightweight squad.​

“The programme is very challenging and the first month I was trying to get my head around the number of sessions.

“But in the Senior British Championships my doubles partner and I won the under 23 lightweight doubles and open lightweight doubles and finished third fastest doubles scull in the category. That really showed I have upped my game since coming to university.”

Gavin is one of 150 students to be supported by Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships programme for student athletes. Through the programme he receives funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies.

Heriot-Watt University is one of 17 Scottish universities and 14 colleges alongside which form the Winning Students network. Students at network colleges and universities benefit from a dedicated co-ordinator to ensure they can balance their studies and sport effectively.

“Heriot-Watt allows me mitigating circumstances which, when my workload and training both increase going into the second semester, will be a very useful tool,” he said.

“The great thing about Winning Students is that they’ve allowed me to continue with my passion of rowing by helping to reduce the financial burden of the sport for me and my family.

“Rowing competitively comes at quite a high cost, especially travelling to foreign training camps and competitions.  So Winning Students ultimately keeps my performance improving.”